Saturday, 24 December 2011

Merry Christmas!

Hope you all have a great Christmas and a happy New Year!

Love from Paul. xxxxxx

Monday, 12 December 2011

Top Ten Alternate Versions of Reed Richards That Aren't in the Council of Reeds

One of my all time favourite comic book characters has to be Reed "Mister Fantastic" Richards of Marvel Comics' Fantastic Four. He's a born leader, a super-genius and the Marvel Universe's ultimate father figure. But these factors are only part of what makes him so appealing to me. Reed's a much more interesting character than he first seems. You see, in the fifty years since Stan Lee and Jack Kirby created the Fantastic Four it's been pretty well established that Reed is just one bad day away from going completely batshit insane. Seriously, this guy is the cleverest person on the planet and he's just one hissy fit away from deciding that everyone on Earth doesn't really know what they're doing and he'd be better off just taking over. There is of course one thing that keeps Reed grounded and stops him from crushing us all like the intellectual cockroaches we are. His family. The rest of the FF. Whenever Reed starts losing it, his wife, his brother-in-law, his best friend, his two children and sometimes even his deadbeat, time-travelling dad all manage to keep him on the straight and narrow.

But what if Reed lost his family?

This is why Alternate Universe versions of Reed Richards are so much fun! Like most alternate versions of popular characters they offer us a glimpse of such scenarios as; what Reed would be like if he had different powers, or no powers, or if Spidey joined his team! But many of these multiversal doppelgängers also offer us a glimpse of what Reed would be like if he lost everything that linked his mighty brain to humanity and went completely barking mad. It's fascinating stuff, and it's a concept that's been used most recently by current Fantastic Four writer Jonathan Hickman. Hickman has introduced us to the Council of Reeds, a gathering of different versions of Reed from countless alternate universes, all united towards a single goal; solving everything! Unlike the regular Marvel Universe Reed, each member of the Council has turned his back on his family in order to totally focus on this goal. As you can imagine this has left them slightly less in touch with humanity than regular Reed.

The Council has a huge variety of alternate Reeds. Their membership includes Human Torch Reed, Silver Surfer Reed, Swordsman Reed, Rock Head Reed, Muscle Reed, Fat Reed, Arc-Reactor-In-His-Chest Reed, with Goggles. But there are still many other Alternate Reeds that are conspicuous by their absence from the Council. The following list is devoted to them.

(Note: The regular Marvel Universe is usually referred to as Universe 616. If I mention Reed 616 I'm talking about the Reed Richards of the regular Marvel Universe. This is a handy little device that Marvel writers presumably came up with to stop their heads from exploding when discussing alternate versions of their characters.)

10. Ultimate Reed Richards

The Reed of Marvel's Ultimate Universe is pretty similar to Reed 616 except for three major differences.  For starters, Ultimate Reed is a much younger version of the character, he's in his late teens rather than middle age. Secondly, Reed 616's father is Nathaniel Richards, an absentee dad who nevertheless nurtured Reed's keen scientific mind during the brief time he spent with his son. On the other hand Ultimate Reed's father is Gary Richards, a brutish oaf who favours athletics over more academic pursuits and has no time for his genius son. And the third, and most important difference between 616 Reed and Ultimate Reed? Ultimate Sue Storm gave Reed the elbow!

You can see where this is going right?

To cut a long story short, in Ultimate Doom #4 (2011) Ultimate Reed went crrraaazyyyy, killed a bunch of people, beat up Sue and teamed up with some aliens to do evil stuff. When he eventually clashed with his former team mates he was even given some Doctor Doom style scars courtesy of the Human Torch.

And you think your ex is a nutbar! He was last seen escaping from the Negative Zone and promising to "solve everything", just like the Council! 616 Reed has made a similar promise but Ultimate Reed's solution probably involves something evil, like torturing kittens.

9. Zombie Reed Richards

Long before he went evil Ultimate Reed built a device for communicating with parallel universes. He made contact with what appeared to be the 616 Reed, who showed Ultimate Reed his wife, his children and his cool grey sideburns. Ultimate Reed hopped onto the first cross-dimensional teleporter over to his doppelgänger's universe, only to find one of the best final page cliffhanger/reveals ever!

Holy Shit! Zombies!

Even more disturbing than that is the way the Zombie FF were first infected. In Marvel Zombies: Dead Days (2007) we once again witness an alternate Reed going barmy, this time as a result of the death of his children at the hands of Zombie She Hulk. Reed decides that the Zombie virus is actually the next step in evolution. He deliberately infects his team-mates and then encourages them to infect him, all the while wearing a look of orgasmic glee on his face.

8. The Brute

The Brute is the Reed Richards of the High Evolutionary's Counter-Earth. Like 616 Reed he was hit by cosmic rays. Unlike 616 Reed he was granted the ability to turn into a big purple monster while his version of Sue was knocked into a coma. In Fantastic Four #177 (1976) he managed to find his way to Earth 616 and join the Frightful Four! In the ensuing battle 616 Reed gets thrown into the Negative Zone and replaced by the Brute. It wasn't long before the FF figured him out for an imposter. After all, the Brute is a much more masculine specimen than 616 Reed. Just look at him here, bare chested and smoking a pipe...

Maybe the Council didn't invite him to join because they were intimidated by his manliness?

7. Unstable Molecules-less Reed Richards

As all Marvel fans know, Reed's costume stretches with him because it's made from Unstable Molecules! It's the same reason Johnny Storm doesn't set his pants on fire. But have you ever wondered what would have happened if Reed hadn't invented Unstable Molecules? No, me neither. Nevertheless, What If #34 (1982) provided us with an answer.

This particular issue of What If is actually a lot of fun, and also gives us our next alternate Reed...

6. Long Banana Reed Richards

Fred Hembeck asks the question "What if the Fantastic Four were bananas?" 'Nuff said.

5. The Thing

On Earth A the cosmic rays granted Ben Grimm stretchy and flame powers while Reed was left with the familiar orange, rocky form of the Thing! While not actually evil this Reed doesn't seem like he's far off. Take for example this scene from She Hulk #21...

"Yeah, let's make this quick Reed, 'cos let's face it I'm probably going to try and clobber you over the head and steal your life!"

Personally I don't know what he's moaning about. Apparently he lives in a castle and builds robots all day. Sounds like a good life to me.

4. 1602 Reed Richards

Neil Gaiman's brilliant 1602 (2003) asks; what would the Marvel Universe be like if all its characters were around in the year 1602? Among the many heroes found in its pages is Sir Richard Reed, leader of the Four of the Fantastick. Like his 616 counterpart he is a stretchy super genius. In fact Sir Reed may be even cleverer considering he's actually figured out that he and his friends are part of a story and are slaves to its narrative!

3. Dark Raider

In Fantastic Four #392 (1994) the identity of the mysterious villain known only as the Dark Raider is revealed. It is of course, another Reed Richards. This Reed is from a universe where the FF failed in their first battle to stop Galactus from eating the Earth. The 616 version of this event was wrapped up when the Watcher sent Johnny Storm to fetch the Ultimate Nullifier from Galactus' spaceship. In the Raider's Universe the Watcher sent Reed instead. Reed, being the curious sort, spent too long buggering about with all the gadgets on the spaceship and by the time he got back Galactus had finished his meal, paid the cheque and presumably moved on to a cosmic nightclub. As in so many other Universes, the loss of his family drove Reed 'round the twist, and he decided that the only logical next step was to roam the multiverse slaughtering other versions of himself.

Of course, the Dark Raider's biggest crime was the murder of Cravat Wearing Explorer Reed, who would have no doubt added some much needed style and panache to the Council.

2. Big Brain

In What If #6 (1977) we see what would have happened if the Fantastic Four gained different powers. In this Universe the cosmic rays granted them powers that more accurately reflected their personalities. Ben gained wings, since he was a pilot, Johhny, the car enthusiast, gained a metal body and Sue gained stretchy powers because doing yoga? Reed definitely drew the short straw. Since he's a brainy bugger he turned into a giant brain!

I guess we should be thankful that Reed wasn't a prolific lover or a compulsive masturbater. That wouldn't have been pretty!

At the end of the story Reed ends up switching bodies with Doctor Doom. After existing only as a disembodied spongy mass, facial disfigurement must seem like a doddle.

Finally, we come to our final entry in our Top Ten Alternate Versions of Reed Richards That Aren't in the Council of Reeds! This next Reed is possibly the greatest Reed Richards of all time, and yet bafflingly he's only ever made one appearance, in Amazing Spider-Man Family #4 (2009).  Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you....

1. Weed Wiskers, Mr Furtastic

Weed Wiskers, Mister Furtastic

The leader of the Fantastic Fur and friend of Peter Porker, the Amazing Spider-Ham! Maybe if the Council of Reeds had counted this guy amongst their members they would have had more luck "solving everything"! HE'S SOOOO CUTE!

So there we have it! Ten alternate versions of Reed Richards that show us what might have been. Some of them are goofy, some of them are creepy, some of them are pure evil. All of them are fascinating. As for good ol' 616 Reed, we can rest safe in the knowledge that there's no chance of him doing anything as crazy and out of character as any of these guys, right?

Oh yeah, that. Thanks a lot Straczynski!

Monday, 28 November 2011

How I Learned to Love The Amazing Spider-Man

I've recently completed my collection of all ten volumes of Essential Amazing Spider-Man and as a result I'm in the process of reading two decades of Amazing Spider-Man back to back. I'm currently immersed in the Stan Lee/John Romita era (1966-1971) and it's really reminding me of why I fell in love with the character as a child. Although I'm an '80s child, this era was what got me into Spider-Man!

School and church summer fetes were one of the major factors in me becoming a Spider-Man fan as a child. These fetes would be an annual highlight for me because I could virtually guarantee that there would be at least one old '70s Spider-Man hard-cover annual on sale that reprinted some classic Spidey stories. One of these annuals stands out in my brain as particularly memorable. It featured a reprint of Amazing Spider-Man # 48-49 (1967) in which Adrian Toomes apparently dies and another criminal named Blackie Drago steals his wings to become the new Vulture.  I remember being disappointed years later when I found out that Blackie had made one more appearance and then disappeared forever. My dad also owned a battered issue from the Lee/Romita era that I read over and over again until the cover fell off. Amazing Spider-Man #82 (1970), which featured Spider-Man appearing on a chat show to earn some money, before being beaten up by Electro.

It's become a bit of a cliche to talk about how Spidey stands out from other heroes because of his 'real world' problems, but like most cliches, it's true! In the aforementioned Vulture story Spidey gets his arse kicked because he's got a cold! As a child I'd never seen a super-hero fall ill before. And he wasn't suffering from some alien super virus, he was suffering from a common cold.  As for the Electro story, well, not only was Spidey pimping himself out to a TV station to get some extra cash, but at one point in the story he has to put a bag on his head to go and clean his costume in a laundrette. The issue ends with Spidey collapsing in an exhausted heap on his bed. Nursing his burnt hands he says to himself "If this is a victory... I'd hate to be defeated." Even as a kid I realised this was miles away from Superman or Batman, but I didn't realise quite how different it was. I remember asking my dad if he had the next issue, where I assumed Spidey would pick himself up, solve his problems and win a decisive victory over Electro.  I didn't realise that there was no second part to this story, this was Peter Parker's life! Even when he won he didn't really win.

It's a real treat to re-read these issues, and others from the same era, in the Essential volumes. One thing that strikes me as I re-read them is that, despite the odd reference to Woody Allen or the Vietnam War, these stories are timeless. After all, money woes, girl trouble, crazy costumes and extreme guilt never go out of fashion. You could give these comics to kids now and I honestly think that they'd like them just as much as kids in the '60s did, and certainly just as much as I did in the '80s. Even the weird 'groovy' slang that Stan put in the mouths of all of his teenage characters doesn't really distract that much. As a child I just assumed that was how teenagers talked.

Of course, these comics weren't the only things that got me into Spider-Man as a child.  There were also the wonderful cartoons!  I'll have to be honest, it wasn't so much the characterisation and identifiable problems that made me love Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends, it was more the fact that their living room folded out into top secret super-hero base at the pull of a hidden lever. Imagine if my living room did that and my parents didn't know! How cool would that be!? There was also that brilliant theme tune.....

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

My Thoughts on DC Comics' New 52

If Blogger's stats are anything to go by, this blog is viewed daily by a wide and varied bunch of readers and most of you were brought here by Googling 'Supergirl porn'. Given your interest in naked drawings of a fictional teenage alien I'm going to skip the preamble, assume you're familiar with DC Comics' New 52 and plough straight ahead with my thoughts on the New 52.

Action Comics: Superman has gone back to his roots, for the first time!

"Back to his roots" is a phrase that's been bandied around a lot where Batman is concerned. Over the years many talented people have set out to return Batman to the basic core concept seen in his very first appearance in Detective Comics #27 (1939), a dark and brooding creature of the night. Denny O'Neil and Neal Adams did it in the Seventies and then in the Eighties Frank Miller did it again. The Eighties also saw Tim Burton return the Batman of the big screen to his dark roots, and after Joel Schumacher undid all his good work in the Nineties with Batman Forever and Batman and Robin, it fell to Christopher Nolan to pay the most recent visit to those roots with Batman Begins and Dark Knight. Returning to Batman's roots is an idea that has been tried so often, with such consistently good results, it amazes me that it's only now that someone has thought to try the same thing with Superman.

Action Comics #14 (1939) & Action Comics #1 (2011)

And that's exactly what Action Comics #1 is, a return to Superman's roots. Previously when writers have tried to present Superman to a new audience, for example John Byrne's Man of Steel, Geoff Johns' Secret Origin or Bryan Singer's Superman Returns, they generally seemed to have used Richard Donner's 1978 Superman movie as a template. Grant Morrison has previously presented us with his take on the quintessential Superman story, All Star Superman and he mostly uses the Silver Age of comics for his inspiration. With Action Comics #1 however, Morrison gives us a Superman that draws heavily on the "Champion of the Oppressed" originally conceived by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster and shown in Superman's first appearance in the first Action Comics #1 (1938). Seeing this take on Superman presented in a modern setting, I feel like comics readers must have felt in the early seventies while reading an O' Neil/Adams Batman story. It really is a breath of fresh air, and exactly what Superman needed. For this reason, and many others, Action Comics #1 is my favourite of the New 52.

Aquaman: Great stuff but we've seen it before.

Aquaman #1 is a perfect first issue. Writer Geoff Johns tells us what we need to know about the character but hints at more information further down the line. He shows us exactly what the character can do in an interesting way and introduces us to brand new scary-looking villains. The art by Ivan Reis is beautiful stuff, this is the best Aquaman has looked in years.

Aquaman has been the butt of many jokes over the years and Johns chooses to confront and counter practically every jibe in this issue, often in a humorous and witty fashion. While I have to agree that this approach has worked, I do wonder why many reviewers are talking like Johns is the first writer to have used it. In Aquaman #63 (2000) writer Dan Jurgens has Aquaman encounter a smart-arsed chat show host who goes through the usual repertoire of "talking-to-fish" jokes until Aquaman changes the man's tune by punching through the floor of the TV studio to stop a bomb from exploding. Further back in Aquaman #3 (1994) Peter David has Aquaman confronting Superboy's jibes by walloping him with a giant tidal wave!

Aquaman #1  was fantastic, but there's a lot of fantastic Aquaman stories out there, people just haven't heard of them!

Superman: George Perez, you get back here this instant!

Superman #1 was by no means the best of the New 52. It's biggest flaw was a completely needless narration that came in the form of an article Clark Kent had written about the issue's events. These captions explained stuff that we could plainly see happening already and served only to clutter up the panels and distract from the art. Also, Superman fought a fire monster. I always think that if Superman is going to fight a random monster then it should be a beast with a bit of  imagination and fun to it. Something like Titano the Super-Ape, Solaris the Tyrant Sun or even Kryptococcus the Omni-Germ. Anything is better than Big Generic Fire Guy.

Having said that, on the whole I really enjoyed the issue, mainly for the focus on the supporting characters, something that's been sorely lacking for years in the Super-books. Lois Lane in particular has a great moment where she shows her boss Morgan Edge why she's one of the best journalists in the business. The characterisation of Clark Kent is consistent with Action Comics #1; he's portrayed here as an idealist with an angry sense of justice. Despite it's flaws this is a book that I would be happy to get month after month.

Unfortunately DC has revealed that writer/artist George Perez will be leaving after issue 7! He'll be replaced by Keith Giffen and Dan Jurgens, both of whom are very good, but there's no indication of how long they'll stay. I'm really disappointed by this news. I really like Giffen and Jurgens but these new titles need consistency. DC need to find someone who's going to stick with this title for the long haul. For years the quality of Superman stories has fluctuated up and down, from the great (Superman and the Legion of the Super-Heroes) to the mediocre (most of New Krypton) to the just plain daft (J. Michael Straczynski's Grounded). The Super-books desperately need consistency! Hopefully Morrison will stay on Action Comics for a good long while.

Legion of Super-Heroes: Did no one tell Paul Levitz about the New 52?

As a Legion fan who's been following the past year's worth of Legion stories, I just about understood what was going on in Legion of Super-Heroes #1 and I enjoyed the issue, although it didn't blow me away. But that's not a good thing! I should have been blown away! This is the New 52! When Paul Levitz last wrote a first issue of Legion he blew up Titan and gave a Green Lantern ring to a baddie! That's the kind of the thing that needed to happen here. Instead we got an average issue that felt like issue #17 rather than issue #1. A friend of mine, who's a DC fan but not a Legion fan read it and said it was "impenetrable". Levitz has made no effort to tell new readers who these characters are and why we should care about them. I'm not saying Levitz should have ignored everything he's been doing for the last year, or indeed spent the whole issue catching everyone up. But, considering the whole point of the New 52 is to pull in new readers, you'd think Levitz would have at least indicated at some point that he was aware that this issue was supposed to be a jumping on point.

The new Legion spin-off, Legion Lost was even worse. This a comic about a group of Legionnaires who are trapped in the present day. A completely new staus quo, familiar to us but alien to them! What a perfect way to present these characters to a new audience! Sadly, writer Fabian Nicieza spends too much of the issue showing us a generic monster on the rampage and not enough telling us who the heroes are. A wasted opportunity!

Both Legion comics had okay stories. I'm not dropping them yet. For a Legion fan like me they were good enough. But this is the New 52, and 'good enough' just isn't good enough!

The Flash: Who needs Wally West?

Over the past two decades Wally West, The Flash has built up quite a loyal and dedicated following, thanks mostly to two long and celebrated runs by writers Mark Waid and Geoff Johns respectively. These two runs were superb, establishing Wally West has a fully rounded character and a worthy successor to his predecessor, Barry Allen. In light of this, DC's decisions to make a resurrected Barry the focus of their Flash title and to seemingly erase Wally from existence, seem absurd. Why alienate a fan base that it took twenty years to build?

But, I would argue that Flash #1 demonstrates exactly why DC have made the right decision. The process of making Wally a likeable and worthy successor to Barry depended upon a lot of harking back to the good ol' days of Barry. Wally was constantly comparing and contrasting himself with Barry, it was part of his journey, part of his character development and part of why the Waid and Johns years were so good. It also meant that nostalgia was always a big part of The Flash.  

Not so these days! Flash #1 was fast paced, fun and forward looking. We knew everything we needed to know about the character within a few panels and then we were off, straight into the story with a new tone and direction. In fact The Flash hasn't felt this fresh and new since 1987, when Mike Baron wrote Wally West's first faltering steps in the role of the Flash. Those early Wally stories really felt different in style and tone to every Flash comic that came before it, and so does this new Flash #1. How's that for irony!?

Red Hood and the Outlaws and Catwoman: The Big, Pervy Elephants in the Room!

I couldn't let this list end without mentioning two of DC Comics' biggest missteps from last month, Red Hood and the Outlaws #1 and Catwoman #1. These issues and their many, many flaws have been discussed a lot all over the internet already so there's no point in me chipping in my tuppence worth too. I will however direct you to two articles, one by ComicsAlliance's Laura Hudson and the other by comics legend Jim Shooter. They sum up my feelings on these issues quite nicely.

So was this big, huge, much publicized relaunch a success?

I purchased eleven comics out of fifty two.
  • Action Comics
  • Aquaman
  • Batman
  • Green Lantern
  • Justice League
  • Legion Lost
  • Legion of Superheroes
  • Supergirl
  • Superman
  • The Flash
  • Swamp Thing
I enjoyed them all (although some were better than others) and I'm coming back for issue #2 of all them with the exception of Swamp Thing. I told a friend who didn't get comics regularly about the New 52, and he checked out a few, including Justice League, Batman, Detective Comics, Action Comics and The Flash.  I'm pleased to say he's going to be checking out plenty of issue #2s! Also, my girlfriend, who also doesn't read comics regularly, picked up Wonder Woman and enjoyed it!

So, from my own point of view at least, the New 52 was a success, and frankly that's good enough for me!

Saturday, 1 October 2011

DC Comics' New 52: Paul Predicts!

During this past month DC Comics has released 52 all new No. 1s that revamped most of their super-hero line.  Upon first hearing about the relaunch back in June I made six predictions about how I thought the DC Universe would look come October.  Let's take them one by one and see how accurate I was.

1. Superman will no longer be married to Lois Lane, she probably won't know his secret identity.

This was a no-brainer.  DC almost wriggled out of the Super-marriage way back in 2000 when Grant Morrison, Mark Waid, Mark Millar and Tom Peyer were set to to relaunch the character for a new millennium. As it turned out DC went in a different direction and Superman remained in a state of wedded bliss, but it was only a matter of time before DC found a way to pull the plug on the marriage.  After all, Marvel Comics wiped out Spider-Man's marriage in 2007.  The story that accomplished this remains controversial (to say the least) but single Spidey is currently enjoying a creative Golden Age in the pages of Amazing Spider-Man under the reins of writer Dan Slott.

2. Bruce Wayne will be the only Batman again, no more Batman Inc.

The continuities of characters such as Superman, Firestorm and the Teen Titans have been completely rebooted from the ground floor up.  However the history of Batman (and his top-selling comics) has remained unchanged. Batman's recently formed hero-franchise is still an integral part of the Bat-mythos. In fact one of Batman's worldwide army of Batmen, Africa's Batwing, got his own series as part of the new 52 and a new Batman Incorporated series begins in 2012.

3. Dick Grayson will no longer be Batman, he may even be Robin again.

While Dick Grayson is indeed no longer Batman he is definitely not Robin either.  He has returned to his role as Nightwing and is very much an adult and not a Boy Wonder.  

4. Wally West will be Kid Flash again.

As of Flash #1 Barry Allen is the one and only Flash and Bart Allen seems to be the only Kid Flash operating in Teen Titans #1.  Also, in the new DC continuity Barry's only been active as the Flash for five years, leaving little time for Wally to have grown from a sidekick into an adult hero. Does Wally West even exist in the new DC Universe?

5. The Justice Society of America will be back on Earth Two.

James Robinson and Nicola Scott will soon be bringing us a new 
Justice Society of America series set on Earth 2! I for one welcome the decision to return the JSA to their original home, occupying the same space as the regular DC Earth but vibrating at a different frequency. I'm a massive fan of Jay Garrick, the Golden Age Flash, and I think he deserves to be his Earth's premier Speedster. Also, when we last saw Alan Scott, the Golden Age Green Lantern, he was inexplicably dressed as (and I'm not making this up) a GIANT LANTERN! Hopefully the reboot has scrubbed this hideous costume out of continuity forever. I mean, seriously, he even had a giant handle!

6. Characters like Kyle Rayner, Conner Hawke, Bart Allen and Damien Wayne will exist on a parallel Earth where the original heroes have retired. On this Earth Wally will be The Flash and Dick will be Batman.

Like the Bat-titles, the Green Lantern books have been selling really well. As a result GL continuity remains the same and Kyle is still part of the regular DCU and hasn't been shifted to a parallel Earth. Neither has Damien Wayne (he's starring regularly in Batman and Robin) or Bart Allen (he can be found each month in Teen Titans).

But what about Conner Hawke?

For the past couple of years Grant Morrison has been promising a series called Multiversity. Morrison has said that this series will explore the 52 parallel Earths of the DC Multiverse. Morrison also stated that one of these Earths will feature "all of the nineties characters because I really miss those guys, like Connor Hawke....There’s a whole younger generation of heroes – kind of media brats almost." This was from an interview that Morrison gave a couple of years ago and a lot has changed since then. But if Multiversity is still on it's way, could Media-Brat Earth be the new home for both Conner and Wally? We'll have to wait and see.

Imagine this though. What if DC were to bring out a remake of the story from Flash #123 (1961) 'Flash of Two Worlds'?  This classic tale featured Barry Allen's first trip into a parallel world and established that the Justice Society of America dwelt on Earth 2. The concept of a DC Multiverse was born with this story. Just imagine a modern remake where Barry crosses through the dimensional barrier for the first time and meets another Flash, except, instead of Jay Garrick, the other Flash is Wally West! The Flash could once again kick off the DC Multiverse, but with a new twist.

If you hate this idea, don't worry. If this blog post proves anything it's that I'm crap at predicting comic book storylines.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Legion of Super-Heroes: A Brief Guide for New Readers

Last week saw the release of Legion Lost #1, a comic featuring members of the Legion of Superheroes trapped in the present. This week sees the release of the first issue of the Legion's main title, Legion of Super-Heroes #1. These should be the perfect jumping on point for anyone who wants to check out the Legion for the first time.  I can't help but feel however that new readers might have felt a little overwhelmed by all the strangely named characters featured in Legion Lost #1.  With that in mind I thought I'd write a post answering a few frequently asked Legion questions. The Legion's vast history can seem daunting and so this post is designed to bring any new readers up to speed with the Legion in the most succinct manner possible, more succinct even than Wikipedia.  I'm by no means an expert and there are many people on the 'Net who are much better versed in Legion Lore than I am. Check out the Legion Omni-Con blog for one such expert.  Hopefully though the fact that I'm still discovering so many aspects of the Legion's rich history will help me just to focus on the bare essentials.

1) Who are the Legion?

Basically they're like the X-Men but better, in the future, with spaceships.

Inspired by legends of Superman, several super-powered teenagers in the 31st Century joined together to form a great, big super-team.  Some of them gained their super-powers by accident, others are aliens whose powers are a natural attribute of their race.  They all defend Earth and the rest of the United Planets (it's a bit like Star Trek) from evil.  All members are given a ring that enables them to fly (even the ones who can fly already) and some of the younger members have to train in the Legion Academy before they can join.

2) Weren't there several continuity reboots?

Yes, but pretty much everything from 1958 to 1989 happened with a few minor revisions.  Everything else happened on parallel Earths.

Keith Giffen & Al Gorden

In 1989 the series jumped forward in time five years. In 1994 it was rebooted and everything started from scratch. In 2004 the exact same thing happened again and the stories were once more started from scratch!  In 2007, believe it or not DC Comics went back to the original continuity!

3) Is there an official timeline that sums it all up?

Yes! This year Legion of Super-Heroes Annual #1 featured a board game that doubled as a timeline.  

Art by Brian Douglas Ahern

While it's obviously tongue-in-cheek it does actually tell you everything you need to know about the Legion in a succinct and fun way.

4) Who are the members?

There's loads of them!!!!!

Here are a few of the most prominent members.

Lightning Lad (Garth Ranzz) A hotheaded character from the planet Winath where everyone has a twin.  He gained electric powers when he, his twin sister Ayla and his evil, twinless older brother Mekt were struck by a Lightning Monster from the planet Korbal! His sister later became Lightning Lass and his brother became the villainous Lightning Lord.

Saturn Girl (Imra Ardeen) Saturn Girl actually comes from Saturn's moon, Titan, home of a whole race of telepaths.  She's the wife of Lightning Lad and together they have two infant, twin sons, Graym and Garridan.  Saturn Girl is a bit like the X-Men's Jean Grey but she doesn't die as much.

Cosmic Boy (Rokk Krinn) A natural leader type who has magnetic powers.  Everyone from his home planet of Braal has the same powers but he's really good at using them.  He founded the Legion, along with Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl.

Brainiac 5 (Querl Dox) As his name would suggest Brainy is descended from the Superman villain Brainiac.  He's the team's resident inventor/scientist and he designed and built most of their gadgets.  He acts like an arsehole to everyone, but he loves the Legion really.

Mon-El (Lar Gand) A resident of the planet Daxam, Mon-El has all of Superman's powers.  He is however, the unluckiest guy in the Universe! After an encounter with a young Superman in the present day he was accidentally poisoned by lead (which is fatal to Daxamites) and placed in the Phantom Zone to stop him from dying.  He remained stuck in the Zone for 1000 years until he was rescued and cured by the Legion.  He's just been dumped by his long-time girlfriend, our next Legionnaire....

Shadow Lass (Tasmia Mallor) Shady comes from the planet Talok VIII where she inherited the powers of her ancestors, a long line of shadow champions with the power to spread and control darkness.  She is currently mourning the death of Earth Man, a former villain for whom she left Mon-El.

Chameleon Boy (Reep Daggle) Reep is from Durla, a planet of shape-shifters.  Thanks to his crafty powers, Reep is leader of the Legion Espionage Squad.  He is the son of R.J. Brande, the Legion's financier and a Durlan trapped in human form.

Ultra Boy (Jo Nah) Jo has most of Superman's powers but he can only use them one at a time.  He gained these powers after being eaten by a space whale (Best. Origin. Ever.)  He comes from the planet Rimbor and is something of a working class tough guy.

Superman & Supergirl Thanks to time travel the team's two biggest historic inspirations are also members, although how they fit into Legion continuity after their recent reboots is anyone's guess.  In my opinion it's enough for us to know that Superman and Supergirl are members and then leave it at that.  In the past the writers have tied themselves in knots trying to reconcile Super-continuity with Legion continuity.  I honestly think they're better off leaving us to fill in the blanks ourselves.


A group of Legionnaires are currently trapped in the present day after attempting unsuccessfully to retrieve a super-villain who had escaped from the 31st Century carrying a mysterious virus.  Gates and Chameleon Girl seem to have been killed in issue 1.  Here's who's left.

Timber Wolf (Brin Londo) Brin is from the planet Zoon and gained his powers after being experimented on by his mad scientist father.  He is like Wolverine but better! That's right, you heard me!

Tyroc (Troy Stewart) Tyroc has sonic powers. His origin is frankly embarrassing and is summed up nicely in this brilliant cartoon strip from  Judging by the first issue of Legion Lost Tyroc is currently developing into a pretty good team leader.

Wildfire (Drake Burroughs) Wildfire is a normal human from Earth transformed into a ball of energy by a lab accident.  He has to wear his special costume to maintain humanoid form and stop himself from dispersing.  He's a bit of a loudmouth who can rub his teammates up the wrong way (a bit like Green arrow or Hawkeye) and he has a complicated romantic relationship with our next member....

Dawnstar is from a planet called Starhaven, home to a race of super-powered people descended from Earth's Native Americans.  She has wings, can fly at light speed through space and can track down anything.

Tellus (Ganglios) A native of the planet Hykraius, Tellus is telepathic and telekinetic like all his race.  So basically he's also a bit like Jean Grey, except he's a giant fish (and therefore better than her).

6) What Legion stories could I check out to get me started?

Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank.  This story tells you everything you need to know about the Legion without bogging you down with continuity.  It's just a really fun story that gives quite a few of the Legionnaires a chance to shine and showcase their personalities.  Even if you never see yourself becoming a Legion fan, if you love super-hero comics you'll love this story, trust me!

Showcase Presents: The Legion of Super-Heroes Vol. 1-4 Four thick, affordable black and white books containing the Legion's classic Silver Age stories in all their wonderful, lovably daft glory! Loads of fun!

The Great Darkness Saga by Paul Levitz and Keith Giffen.  Probably the most famous Legion story, it features the team going up against the biggest, baddest DC Comics villain, Darkseid! At one point Darkseid gets an entire planet full of people to carve their home-world into the shape of his face.  He is one evil dude!

Eye for an Eye by Paul Levitz and Keith Giffen. The Legion are attacked by the Legion of Super-Villains, who have all taken a blood oath to kill one hero each!  This story contains some great moments between Lightning Lord and his sister, Lightning Lass and also features Karate Kid's final showdown with the evil Nemesis Kid.  Like The Great Darkness saga it can initially be a bit confusing with all the different characters running around but both stories are so good that your patience will be thoroughly rewarded.

The Choice Consequences collect some of Paul Levitz' recent run on the title.  These two volumes feature the Legion having to let former villain Earth-Man join and Mon-El being chosen as the 31st Century's only Green Lantern.  Very enjoyable stuff.


Hopefully this blog post has been useful to anyone interested in checking out the Legion for the first time.  If it has, feel free to leave me a comment and let me know.  If it hasn't, then write a comment anyway, leave me some abuse, it's all welcome.  After you've done that why not follow this link to another of my Legion based blog posts, where I explain how I became a Legion fan in the first place.